The Light of Day: Graduate Paints Outdoor Mural for Camden Children’s Garden

Truth be told, says Sarah Germani, there was a not-so-distant time ago when she would have never dreamed of showing her artwork in public.

She was more likely to hide her paintings at home, than to ever let them see the light of day, recalls the 2015 graduate of Rutgers–Camden with a bachelor’s degree in art.

children'sgardencallout-feature2JPG“I guess I lacked the confidence to feel like they were ever done to my satisfaction,” says the Edgewater Park resident. “I could never leave them alone – there was always something that I wanted to change or improve.”

Nonetheless, the only thing to change over the past year was Germani’s ability to spread her wings – much like the butterflies that now adorn the colorful, lighthearted mural that she painted for the Camden Children’s Garden.

The 54-by-4-foot piece – painted on parachute cloth, and featuring whimsical images of plants, houses, dinosaurs, and choo-choo trains – will now grace a concrete wall at the four-acre park, dedicated to providing horticultural experiences for creative and imaginative play, on the Camden waterfront.

“While showcasing Sarah’s amazing work, the mural is a testament to an extraordinary collaboration between the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, Rutgers–Camden’s theater and art programs, and the Camden Children’s Garden,” says Jim Mobley, technical director and resident designer for Rutgers–Camden’s theater program.

As Mobley explains, the project all began when Germani asked her professor, Margery Amdur, a successful artist known for her inspired, mixed-media constructions, if she could take three studio courses in order to satisfy academic requirements toward her bachelor’s degree. Knowing that the workload was unrealistic for any student, Amdur suggested that Germani work with him on a more expansive project that would allow her painting to shine.

children'sgardencallout-feature3aMobley had just the right project in mind. He approached Carmen Pendleton, community and artist programs manager for the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, and discussed the idea of Germani creating an inner-city mural, like similar engaging works of art created with the center’s assistance that now ornament the Camden landscape.

After looking at Germani’s artistic style, Pendleton consulted with the coordinator for the Camden Children’s Garden and determined that an outdoor wall at the park would be the perfect fit for her work. However, in the midst of a frigid winter, Pendleton suggested that Germani create the mural indoors on parachute cloth, which would later be adhered to the wall – a technique pioneered by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

So Germani set up shop behind the Black Box Theater stage, inside the Fine Arts Complex on the Rutgers–Camden campus, and began the months-long process of crafting her piece.

“Sarah had never worked on a project of this magnitude before, so I think that it was a little daunting at first,” recalls Mobley. “Nonetheless, after suggesting what images she could paint on the mural, she jumped right in.”

Tirelessly mixing colors and painting three days a week, Germani ended up fulfilling the academic requirements for the studio courses in the spring and graduated in May – but she was just getting started. She continued to work on the mural well into the summer, collaborating with Mobley and his son, James, who regularly stopped by to lend a helping hand.

With the bitter winter just a fading memory, Germani ended up completing the mural in early August. True to form, however, she still wasn’t ready to call it a day.

“I explained to her that an artist never truly completes an artwork to the fullest degree, but it’s time to share the amazing work that she has created with everyone,” says Mobley. “I am quite proud of what she has accomplished. It’s truly been an incredibly positive experience for everyone involved.”

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